Babes Sports Bar and Grill is a sprawling complex of bar and lounge spaces near the intersection of Georgia Avenue and East West Highway. The venue boasts a large outdoor bar complete with its own sand-filled beach, just waiting for the promise of warmer days and nights. It is even dog friendly! Indoors, a small bar and dining room make up the main entrance, with a cavernous space waiting down a flight of stairs.This vast room is resplendent with flat screen TVs, pool tables, arcade games, lounge chairs and tables, as well as a digital juke box. In addition to the usual array of happy hours, karaoke, and off-peak hour discounts and incentives like free pool from noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Babe’s runs a popular poker night.
All these features assure Babe’s attraction as a bar, especially for the fans of crowded frenetic spaces on weekend evenings, even though parking can be a chore and accessibility favors the more ambulatory. But what about the grill?
When it comes to food, fried appetizers are what Babe’s kitchen does best. Wings are well done in a variety of mild to spicy finishes. Mozzarella sticks, although low tech, are competently made crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside. Onion rings are by the book and good in a guilty way, more about a salty, slightly greasy batter than they are about the sweet caramelized band of onion they encase. Calamari is the least impressive of the batter-fried dishes, bearing the most grease and the least flavor, of either calamari or seasoning. All come with a fairly ordinary marinara sauce and are salted in a way that exacerbates one’s thirst.
A few shreds of lettuce seemed like an accidental garnish on the platter of wings, until it became a pattern on each of the fried plates. The pinch of iceberg lettuce became an oddly recurring signature. A single sprig of crisp parsley would be more appealing to the eye, if not the pallet, than a few shreds of lettuce. Even the wings came with only two small pieces of celery.
Chicken tenders are on a kids menu as well as the regular bar menu, but these are not made with great attention to detail, rather they are tired and dry and tough to cut and chew. French fries are of munchable quality — not stunning, but hard to resist while sipping a beer. Pita pizza may sound pedestrian, but it was among the more satisfying plates we ate, a wide disk of pita-like bread topped with decent cheeses and tomato sauce.
A house specialty is Babe’s selection of stuffed hamburgers — various cheeses and chilies wrapped in what the grill proclaims to be “premium” ground beef. The beef we had was most definitely not USDA premium or even choice. It tasted bland and mealy despite plenty of seasoning, cheese and chilies. And though we were given a choice of how the burger should be prepared, medium rare at Babe’s apparently still means thoroughly cooked, which is just as well since this is not beef worth eating pink.
The fried fish sandwich is just a little better — a slab of batter fried white fish topped with melted American cheese, spanning two stale buns. Although “the works” means lettuce and tomato, the advertised house tartar sauce was completely forgotten. Once the dressing did arrive, it tasted more like Thousand Island with a little old bay than a true tartar sauce.
Pork ribs are tender at the bone if mildly-seasoned. They are a good vehicle for dipping into a tangy smoky sauce.
Wobbly tables were charming until repeated requests to our server for a few coasters to shove under the feet fell on deaf ears. Only after a drink tumbled at our party of kids and adults did we set out to find coasters and level it ourselves.
Dishes were delivered with fingerprints left by the same hands that were gathering used glasses from other tables by the rims. Our check came before we could place an order for dessert, so we left.
There is an aesthetic to pub food — a coarse, yet genuine simplicity of food and service that is not designed to outshine the beverages or the bar, but at least match both for quality and enjoyment. Babe’s needs to put as much quality and attention to detail into the salads and burgers as they do into the games, the fryer and the pitcher.
Babes Sports Bar and Grill
1115 East West Hwy Silver Spring, MD
Hours: 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday and Wednesday; Noon to 1 a.m. Thursday and Sunday; Noon to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Appetizers, Soups and Salads: $4.95-$8.95
Burgers and Sandwiches: $5.95-$7.95
BBQ sandwiches, plates and platters: $8.95-$23.95
Major credit cards